Jenna “JB” Brown

Jenna “JB” Brown, they/he, @loveoverfearwellness, Love Over Fear Wellness & The Queer & Pregnant Journal, Queer Conception Stories

Katie: Hi there! 

JB: Hey! 

Katie: So let’s just get started with you telling us a little bit about who you are and about your practice and the work that you do.

JB: Sure! I want to acknowledge that I am sitting next to a thunderstorm, so there may be background noise. My names Jenna, I use they or he pronouns and I’m a white transmasculine non-binary full-spectrum doula and educator. Typically I describe myself and my work a lot more in depth and that gives me access to other spaces, but I know we’re here just to kind of do a little overview and hello, so: A little bit about my practice is that while I do full-spectrum work meaning I support people preconception all the way through pregnancy outcomes of various kinds into postpartum. I’m also passionate about giving that model of care to all kinds of life transitions, transformations and the education work that I do spans from education that I do with my clients around the kinds of systems and experience that they’re navigating, as well as education and consulting that I do with other birth professionals, family professionals, professionals at large in all kinds of different fields around trans inclusion. I run a mentorship program, too! And do some content creation, so y’know, a little bit of everything (laughs).

Katie: Truly a birthworker of many hats. What are you queering right now?

JB: Oof. What am I not queering? Before we started recording, we were just touching on some lighter conversions about being in community with people and sharing space and what to do when conflict comes up. I think queering conflict resolution sounds really important to me right now. As we’re recording this, we’re in September of 2020 in the middle of the global pandemic and social movement and that as birth workers, as reproductive workers, I feel it’s our responsibility to be in the middle of all that. It’s part of the work, it’s central to our work, it’s the foundation of our work. Reproductive justice being intertwined through all of that. For me, queering that kind of conflict resolution of these uncomfortable, difficult conversations that constantly come up in the work that I do, looks like being nonbinary about how we see everything. There’s not a right and a wrong way now. I don’t know – I’m queering everything, but that’s what I feel most excited to be queering right now. 

Katie: Yas. Oh, I loooove that. Love that lens. And so necessary – such a place where so often we get stuck in conflict for so many people.. Sends people into binary thinking and to be queering conflict resolution or conflict transformation in that way is so regenerative. What inspired you to do the work that you do?

JB: I feel like for so many folks who end up doing birthwork or reproductive work – not to be binary about it – but there’s like these camps of either you’ve gestated a pregnancy to term and that’s what kind of drew you in to this work or you haven’t and then it feels like a bigger “why” or “how” to answer when people ask. I think in parts, I was inspired to do this work because of my own experiences both as someone who has accessed abortion as a trans person and experiences as a trans person navigating day to day life in addition to care systems. And in part, by my community. Especially as I got older and I was already in spaces where I was serving as an educator, having discussions with people about their holistic wellness. As I got a little bit older in those roles, more of the folks that I was in community with were having children and kind of hearing about their experiences especially but not only the experiences of folks in shared queer community … just being really distraught! For them, and alongside them. Knowing that it didn’t have to be that way, and wanting to do whatever I could to make a difference. Oh hi kitty! (Black cat walks in front of Katie’s screen)

Katie: Yeah. Truffle’s here. This is Truffle. She’s gonna just show off a little bit. 

JB: I feel a little bit like I was called into it by others and part of that overused idea that we want to “be the change that we want to see in the world.” Some layer of truth to that. 

Katie: Absolutely (cat). There’s that nugget of resonance in the overused or in the sort of thing that has become more cliche. How do you describe your support philosophy?

JB: Person-centered. That’s what I always say. I feel like, increasingly over the last year especially that’s become more and more of a buzz term, which makes me very frustrated. I think it’s right up there along with “trauma-informed” and “trans inclusive” in terms of buzz words. I don’t expect anyone to show up in a particular way, regardless of the type of experience they’re moving through. Or what their identities look like from the outside, what their support system looks like from the outside. I don’t expect them to think or feel anything in particular as a fixed set of needs until they’ve had the space to explore what those needs are and communicate them with me. So that’s what person-centered means to me. 

Katie: So I’ve asked you a little bit about your natal work, but I also now need to ask you about your natal chart. What’s your sun, moon and rising? 

JB: I’m a Leo sun, Aquarius moon, Virgo rising. Enneagram type 8.

Katie: Oh! Oh!!! Okay, okay. 


Katie: Just throwin’ em all in!! (laughs)

JB: (laughs), just so you get a sense of who I am.

Katie: Did you say Leo sun?

JB: (thunder)

Katie: Wow. I love throwing in the… you start asking about the enneagram now.

JB: I just always ask my clients like, how do you understand yourself? I don’t care what framework they use, if they want to tell me their Harry Potter house, that’s fine too. They can use any system for self-awareness. But I’m like, “How do you make sense of who you are? Is it astrology? Is it Meyers-Briggs?”

Katie: Fair enough, yeah! (laughs) And what’s your favorite thing about being a queer and nonbinary support person or about supporting queer and trans families? 

JB: I think that… and this is a generalization, but there are some generalizations I feel perfectly fine with making… But like, the amount of intention that goes into family building. Obviously, there are some queer families and queer couples who have the genetic material that’s in their family or within their couple to conceive. And there are also many that don’t. There are often additional steps, additional choices to be made along the way and I just don’t find that that level of intention is a given for many people who are family-building. I appreciate that working and centering my work around trans and queer experience means that that’s generally who I get to work with! When I do work with folks who are not LGBTQ themselves, that’s really what I’m looking for – right? In terms of being a birth worker and doing this kind of deep relational work with people, there’s a lot of conversation in communities that do this work around burnout. I’ve found that the hardest thing, the thing that contributes most to my burnout is working with folks who are going through the motions and not really willing to even give themselves space to identify what their preferences or their needs are. I don’t find that to be the norm in working with LGBTQ families. I find that the norm IS there is a lot of intention already. So let’s tap into that and keep peeling the layers back. 

Katie: Absolutely, and I know that – I’m sure there’s a long list of answers to this question but if you could improve one thing about the experience of pregnancy and birth for LGBTQ+ folks and families, what would it be or where would you start?

JB: So, I think you already acknowledged that there are so many ways to answer this question. And it’s so tempting to say things like, “I want it to be more equitable in terms of access to resources” or simple things like, “Access to affirming care.” Second parent adoption… for that to not.. not even be a thing! Or for it to be more accessible if it has to be a thing, right? But to me- I think some of those answers lend themselves toward this “assimilation” into cultures, structures, norms that we already know are a disservice to most people, queer or not. I think where I would want to start is liberation for everybody – queer or otherwise. What’s hard about that answer is that there is no clear answer, and what’s exciting about it is there’s so many possibilities! It’s like an imagination question – like, what would a liberated experience for queer and trans families BE around pregnancy, birth or life in general?

Katie: Yes. Oh. Ohhh. So energizing! I adore that answer. Truffle does too. Very pro-liberation. (Giant cat yawn) She’s also bringing her own thunder to this. What’s a piece of advice that you have for new and aspiring queer and trans birth workers?

JB: Find community! We can’t do this work in isolation. You and I both know there’s so many of us doing this work and it’s really exciting. In seeking folks who are interested in doing some more work who have similar identities, at least on paper, maybe some similar experiences, maybe even some similar value systems and frameworks for understanding not just the work they do but the way that they see the world. Even with all of those similarities, expect there to be conflict and expect there to be disagreement and don’t let that be discouraging. I think conflict and comparison, once people are stepping into this work and seeking community and making connections and finding spaces that feel resonant they can really easily (and I see this in my mentorship program all the time) get trapped in this place where either comparison or conflict stops them. Also seek out the type of care that you need to support yourself through those discomforts because they will come up. 

Katie: The framework of comparison or conflict being barriers for folks is so …. What a helpful naming! I know there are many projects floating around in your work – are there any that you want help cross-pollinating with other that are in the community? 

JB: Yeah! So, Ray Rachlin of Refuge Midwifery and I are working on a directory, not unlike LGBTQ Birth, but that’s trans-centered specifically. So that’s both a provider directory and a place for queer conception stories to live. It’s called Queer Conception Stories dot com! I think we’re seeking definitely more submissions in terms of stories and providers for the directory. I also think that, more largely, I hear so many of (myself included) of this community of queer and trans birth workers expressing the desire to specifically apply this model of care to gender trandition, social or medical. So all of us have that, and I think, have shown up in that work in different ways in our own communities. And there’s a few organizations that are doing that work in a more structured way, but I would love to see collaboration around –let’s actually make that happen on a large-scale. In a really cohesive, collaborative way. So that’s just like a seed that I like to plant any chance I get. 

Katie: Yes! Definitely something that I want to watch blossom. Yes! What else?

JB: There’s so many facets, too. I find myself reaching out to different kinds of professionals all the time. Someone planted the seed in my head of: for a lot of trans people, it’s very important to have a living will. Especially but not only if your name, your gender don’t align with things like your legal gender marker or your legal name. I’ve reached out to lawyer friends to ask “What would it be like to create a system for this to be a free service for trans people?” So I think there’s all these really awesome possibilities if we pool our resources and put our heads together to come up with systems for making these kinds of obstacles that we know are unfair and unjust – a little bit easier to traverse for people. So. Just naming that I think we need to call in more than just birth workers.

Katie: Yeah, absolutely. That’s something that’s very dear to my heart with my spiritual care hat on. I’ve worked as a hospital chaplain, and I’ve seen the places where because of who gets listed on advance directives, or people who have never made them, didn’t know they needed one and then suddenly the hospital “next of kin” hierarchy says, “OK, well, your mom now gets to make all of your medical decisions regardless of whether or not you’ve spoken to your parents in however long.” I’ve certainly seen that play out in really uncomfortable ways professionally and obviously so many people have personal experience of being in those situations. So important. I guess that’s also possibly one answer to this question, but what are some other things that are not natal or reproductive focused about you and your life that you wanna share? 

JB: I think I fall into the category of “my work is also sooooooo deeply enmeshed with my identity” that it can be hard to say. But. Pre-pandemic, I’ve sung in multiple queer choirs so I love to do that. I go to stand-up comedy open mics and try my hand at that

Katie: (gasps)

JB: So there’s places that I find I can take off the identity of doula for a second and set it down and bring some more levity about a life and a lifestyle that can be really heavy. So I love that, and I’m also, before getting into doula work, I was an environmental educator so of course spending time outside, being around animals, gardening. All things that I love. In terms of not natal but still adjacent – if everything is reproductive justice (which I do believe), just contributing to community organizing efforts, mutual aid efforts when and where I can and how I can with the resources that I have feels like it overlaps with work and also isn’t completely separate from the direct client care that I do as a birth worker. 

Katie: I am so excited about your post-pandemic stand-up sets. Wowow. wow.

JB: I’ve written like three jokes during this pandemic – it’s been rough. It’s been rough, y’all, I’ve tried. We’ll come out the other side.

Katie: Until that happens, where can people find you on the internet? (laughs)

JB: Not making jokes. I still try. 

Katie: Not making jokes, where can people find you being really serious on the internet?

JB: Because I’m really, really not gifted at introducing myself – I haven’t even named that my practice is Love Over Fear Wellness.

Katie: (laughs) We’ll link it at the beginning, it’s gonna be fine!

JB: So! @LoveOverFearWellness on Instagram or Facebook, and is where folks can find me.

Katie: Alright Jenna, thank you SO much. This was such a delight!


Ray Rachlin

Ray Rachlin, they/she, Refuge Midwifery

Katie: Alright! Well thank you so much for making the time to chat today. Just to get started, could you tell me a little bit about who you are and about the kind of work you do, about your practice?

Ray: Sure, my name is Ray Rachlin, my pronouns are they and she. I’m a professional midwife, licensed midwife and lactation counselor here in Philly, Pennsylvania. I serve kind of Philadelphia, southeast PA and then all of south Jersey. My practice is part home birth, so I’m a home birth midwife and I help people give birth in their living room or their bathroom or y’know, hallway, wherever. And I also help queer folks get pregnant. So, specifically doing home intra-uterine insemination or home IUI, and kind of trying to build community with queer people who are trying to concieve, get pregnant, have new babies. Both through teaching classes like “Beyond the Baster” which is my favorite, funnest class to take when how to get pregnant when you lack sperm, and also community events.

Katie: Awesome, that work is so important! What are you queering right now? 

Ray: I think I’m constantly trying to queer birth work and the birth world. I think… yeah, pregnancy and birth and having new babies is like the most gendered experience in our society. I got into birth work from a social justice/reproductive justice perspective, and what I kind of continue to find and work around is that the way that the childbearing year is gendered really takes away people’s agency and humanity in the process and y’know, queer-centered care is individualized care that calls people by their names and treats them as respected individuals, and everybody deserves that. That’s what I’m kind of trying to work for and build within the birth community here in Philadelphia. Folks that are providing queer-centered care in all aspects of y’know, pre-conception, pregnancy, birth and postpartum. 

Katie: Awesome. And what inspired you to do the work that you do?

Ray: I definitely got into it through activism and social justice work. Long before I got into birth, I was a labor organizer and then… life situations came up and I was like, “I want to learn how to support people!” so I became a doula. It was like this switch flipped: oh, this is what I’ve supposed to be doing with my life. And birth kind of had all the answers of all the ways I saw problems and systems of oppression coalescing and it was like, “Oh, this is where everything starts and where I want to work.” I felt like, as a doula I was a bandaid on a gaping wound and the first time I went to a home birth, it was life changing. Because I was there as a doula, I’d probably been a doula for like 1-2 years at that point. And what I saw was the midwife worked around the needs of the person in labor. That when you bend over to listen to the baby, instead of telling someone, “Oh, we lost the baby, you need to get back in the bed.” birth looks completely different. I saw agency, I saw empowerment in a way that.. And just a birth that was fundamentally different from anything I saw in the hospital, and it was like OH – that’s what I need to be doing. And If I’m doing this at home and hospitals have to compete with this kind of care, they’re gonna have to behave better. That started off this long trajectory of choosing to become a direct entry midwife, so I trained exclusively with out of hospital birth, so home birth and birth center. So I just wanted to create a different paradigm of how we get to provide care that restores choice and agency to families and ultimately creates competition for hospitals so they have to change their practices to be more family centered. 

Katie: Yeah. I really appreciate the framing of that both for what it is in and of itself and the uniqueness of out of hospital birth experiences, and also how that is also like pushing change within the systeem. 

Ray: Yeah. I think there’s lots of different ways that, y’know, midwives are change agents in every part of society in every society that exists. But midwifery in the US is particularly a mess and like, some folks choose to work within systems to try to create change and that was not the road for me. I was like, I wanna work out- I want to create an alternative that isn’t navigating the same systemic oppressions in the ways that I’m having to provide care. There are a lot of limitations to out of hospital birth in the united states, and like, working outside the system but for me the benefits are outweighing the downsides and we can create our own alternative that better meets our needs.

Katie: And you’ve touched on this in all of your answers, but just to be really explicit about it, how do you describe your support philosophy in the care that you provide?

Ray: I think for me, being a midwife is about showing up for this process. I don’t have a particular stake in what choices people make or how their birth goes but it’s about providing consistent support, providing full information so you can make decisions about your body and understand what’s going on, feel supported and like someone has your back through the whole process. I think that’s what helps people into empowered parenthood. Just having someone in your corner for all of it. A good friend of mine phrased this well, and I kind of like, this is what I always come back to: Midwifery is about the restoration of choice. Y’know, bringing choice and autonomy and agency and respect back to pregnancy and birth. It’s done through relationship with my clients, it’s done through informed choice, it’s done through slowing things down and so there’s time to make decisions. It’s creating a revolution in our life and society through birth. 

Katie: And so, I asked you a little bit about your natal work, but I also need to ask you about your natal chart. What’s your sun, moon and rising?

Ray: I’m a Capricorn. I think it’s very obvious to anyone who meets me. I’ve also had folks tell me they’re glad— I’m right on the cusp – I was born at like 11:55am on the cusp day in January, and I’ve had many people tell me they’re glad I’m a Capricorn, not an Aquarius as a midwife and I’m like, okay sure. I always get my rising and my moon confused! One of them is Taurus, the other is Aquarius. When I first was trying to figure it out, my partner was like, “Well, definitely Taurus cause you’re very stubborn” and I was like, “Huh, yeah.. probably true.” But I think, yeah 100% Capricorn.

Katie: As a fellow Capricorn sun, I… I’m also glad to have you in the mix of Capricorn birth folks.

Ray: It’s like extremely organized, regimented, y’know, with this process that you cannot predict at all..

Katie: Yeah, yeah, like, mmm no idea what’s gonna happen, but let me tell you, I have 36 plans already made and we’re gonna just pick whichever one, we’re gonna just keep switching them around til something works!

Ray: That is exactly true, yes. 

Katie: What is your favorite thing about being a queer support person, a queer midwife and/or about working with queer and trans families? 

Ray: I think it’s just the way that I can provide culturally competent care. It’s these little things that y’know, you don’t necessarily know this til youre in it, but I remember once doing a postpartum for a family I’d helped catch the baby of that, we were just talking about going through butch phases when we were teenagers and… just having a provider that y’know, just kinda gets it. Understands you, your family, your pronouns. There’s just a lot of shared understanding so you don’t have to explain yourself in a way that leads to a more relaxed care experience. And ultimately, a better care experience, cause you’re seen. 

Katie: Absolutely, and then that time that is not actually about you trying to educate your provider about who you are and instead, and is instead about like “what do you need?”

Ray: Yeah.

Katie: Wildly different experiences of care.

Ray: For sure.

Katie: Reladetly, if you could change one thing about the experience of trying to get pregnant, prengnacy and birth for queer and trans families, what would it be?

Ray: It’s a good question, I think I have a two part answer. The first is insurance reimbursement, because our families are not recognized in the insurance structure and not recognized in fertility treatments, not recognized in our care needs. Trans people have a really, really high out of hospital birth rate and out of hospital birth is not well reimbursed so the options that we try to seek out to meet our care needs and our unique family needs are not, are only available to people with money and typically white people with money. So I think there’s the systemic ways for families to be better recognized in the insurance system so we can access the fertility support we need: access sperm, access second parent adoption with a lot more ease. But then also just the real issue is lack of representation. Pregnant people are assumed to be moms, and their partners are assumed to be dads, and that’s represented in pictures, in books, in literature, in providers offices and it is so, so, so engrained. And It’s really hard to figure out our own family narratives when we’re not represented anywhere, and we’re constantly having to translate stuff to apply to us. 

Katie: What is one piece of advice that you would give to a new or aspiring queer/trans birth worker?

Ray: I think linking up with other queer birth workers. I feel like I have been gay for a long time, and in that time I’ve not always been a queer/trans competent birth worker. Gender is so ingrained in pregnancy, birth and postpartum and I had to do a lot of unlearning and really the best way to continue to do that unlearning and learn how to best serve my community is through the people who are already leading this work. We’re probably the best able to meet our community needs, and also being queer is not a given for being a queer competent or trans competent birth worker, for sure. There’s a lot of extra work that needs to be done. 

Katie: Absolutely. And so much of it is about the stuff that we’ve also internalized about ourselves that also it’s sooo, it becomes so personal.

Ray: Yeah, like gender and babies – I constantly find myself at growing edges where I have a client using they/them pronouns for the baby and I slip up on their pronouns like 5 or 6 times like what the hell? I have more work to do. There’s always more work to do. But it’s like having the community both to learn from and also to support me in continuing to do that work. 

Katie: I think that those communities both of support and accountability are so important. 

Ray: Yeah.

Katie: And what is something not natal related or reproductive related about you and your life that you want to share?

Ray: I think (laughs) my biggest, like, hobby or side-thing outside of midwifery is powerlifting.

Katie: Yeah!

Ray: It’s kind of, yeah, I’ve been like a gym bro for like many years. (laughs) Now that I can’t go to the gym, ummm, yeah, now like a home gym bro, I guess. But, yeah! Feels like a very different side of my life and personality, but is also a very big part of my identity. 

Katie: Wow. That’s incredible. I mean, I feel like a similar type of intensity in like..

Ray: Yeah- I only do things that are intense. I don’t really, like, so I knit so maybe that’s not intense. But typically, it’s like…

Katie: Just something I can really go hard at!

Ray: Yeah, my best lift is bench, which I’m very proud of. 

Katie: In. Credible. Finally, where can people find you in the internet land?

Ray: I think most people find me through instagram, so my practice is Refuge Midwifery, it’s that on Instagram and Facebook. It’s been a really amazing tool for connecting with birthworker community, queer perspective parents and just like trying to continue to build knowledge and power around our families and birth and birth justice. I do an “ask the midwife everything Friday” (some Fridays), and just ways to access midwifery care that doesn’t involve hiring me as your home birth midwife. Y’know, as a practice, I’m serving around an hour radius around Philadelphia for home birth and for doing home IUIs, and I do also sometimes have folks who are outside my service area who just want to do preconception care with me because I’m good at helping people get off gender-affirming hormones to create a pregnancy and just want someone to help navigate that that knows the same language. And definitely the pandemic has opened that up more, so I’m doing a lot more virtual care than I ever have before, so for that you can find me on my midwifery website which is

Katie: Awesome, thank you so much. It was so wonderful getting to chat with you.

Ray: Yeah! Thanks for asking me to do this, I’m excited for the resource that you’re making.